Cloud + cold = frost, and when I wake in the morning, there is an abundance of it all over everything. There are, however no clouds in the sky – it looks like it’s going to be a gorgeous day, despite the ominous weather forecasts of yesterday – and the frost kind of makes everything look a little more magical. Nature, how you do dat?
Still, for all its beauty, the frost makes getting out this morning a bit more of a chore than usual, what with having to shake said frost off of everything and put it away what-will-eventually-be-wet. Everything’s still in shadow for now – and I need to get moving to keep warm – but if the weather holds, I should be able to dry it before I have to settle in for the evening. It’s the little things, really.
Then it’s up the last little bit to Grizzly Peak.
It’s a pretty nice climb or I’m in a pretty good mood or it’s pretty pretty out or some combination of all three, because I’m really feeling the whole “walking” thing this morning. The climb to the peak is short and sweet, just two quick miles that go by in a flash. At this rate, I’ll be done– soon enough, I guess, since there was frost on my tent this morning, but much, much too soon.
Grizzly Peak is wooded – I could’ve slept here last night, and, as it turns out, with people, womp womp – and provides great views of what I presume is Glacier Peak, whose wilderness I’ll be entering soon. Lotta snow up there, regardless.
The sun on my puffy makes me hot, so I take it off, which is a mistake; downhill, the trail goes back into shadow, and I’m not working as hard/producing as much heat, but I leave it off in my stubbornness. While it’d be nice to actually be on the Crest this morning, if only for the sunshine, the trail winds in and out and around and between high points, leaving me alternately content and feeling the sun’s loss.
The trail starts to head back up, and soon enough, I arrive at my first water stop this morning: Pear Lake.
I lay my stuff out to dry, then manage to rock hop out towards the deeper part of the lake to collect. I sit on the shore, treat my water and eat, check my maps. Despite feeling good and enjoying the sunshine and having headed downhill most of the morning, after three hours, I’ve gone about 6.5 miles. It seems I’m barely making over two miles an hour today.
I get super bummed out – I was trying to make 28 today, to have a reasonably decent chance to make it to the Post Office in Stehekin before it closes on Saturday morning. If I make it any later, I have to wait until Monday, which pushes back my timeline for Canada/flights/&c. Even this close, things aren’t certain, aren’t settled.
It’s hard at this point, setting goals for yourself that you know, just know you can reach, and despite feeling good and being focused, falling short. It probably doesn’t help that my pack seems to weigh a metric shitton on my back; I probably have too much food again. Or I need too much food. Or something.
I walk on, keep pushing; it’s nearly 11, and I haven’t even made ten miles yet. I’m certainly not making 28 today. My only consolation is that I’m still moving – and those beautiful-if-distant Washington views.
I’m headed down towards Pass Creek when I hear a noise behind me – horsepackers, coming closer and closer. There’s not really much space to let them pass when they need to, but we all manage, chuckling about hoping the horses are chill for all our benefits. I catch them taking a break down at the bottom of the pass – they’re deer hunters, and while they bagged one they were hoping for more. Ah well.
They ask me if I want a snack, and won’t really take no for an answer; I find myself loaded up with another pound and a half of food and a Powerade. And me with an already heavy pack and another long hill to climb. I’m smiling on the outside – I do appreciate their kindness – but crying a little on the inside. I sit and eat and drown my sorrows in blue sugar water, watch them go as I finish the bottle. Well, at least that’s a little less weight to carry.
I get up and know where the trail is, where I came out, but not where the trail goes – between the nearby trail junctions and the absurd amount of campsites here, there’s no clear physical indication of which way I should be heading – so I struggle with my maps and try not to wander out of sight of the place where I am not-lost, and it takes a good three minutes cursing both Halfmile and Guthook and holding back a feeling of pure uselessness before I realize I should cross the stream. The trail’s pretty obvious from there.
I’m to the point where I need a break from myself, so I turn on my podcasts. Nothing like rolling your anthropologist’s eyes at economists1 to distract you from the less-than-pleasant day you’re having. Even that gets old after a while, though, so it’s off to The Adventure Zone, which gets me to laughing and oohing and aahing, and not just at the views around.
I settle back into walking obvious trail, and while shit is still hard, I try to distract myself – things could be worse. I’m thankful it’s not raining – though I do have my rain jacket on, since it started to look a little sketchy at Pass Creek – thankful that I can actually see these views – this is supposed to be one of the prettiest parts of the trail, and it’s a riot of color right now and I’m loving it – but today is just one of those mentally tough days. Doesn’t help that the horsepackers are the only people I’ve seen out and a-walking – there’s no one to even share joy with, or at least commiserate with. I’m reminded that we’re a social species, and I’m feeling that particularly keenly now.
The clouds start to gather, start to look a little more ominous as I approach the Glacier Peak Wilderness – I seem to be walking towards the weather, which isn’t particularly comforting.
I crest a ridge and see a storm in the distance:
And, just below, I enter the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Well, that’s one thing I accomplished today.
I’m trying to walk quickly, but my body’s not having any of it, and it’s so pretty that all I want to do is take pictures.
But while the trail’s turned and I’m walking away from the weather, it’s looming closer and closer, throwing rainbows every which-way.
I’ve still got my rain jacket on, and can hear the plop bloop blip of sprinkles up and down my jacket, my stuff. It’s coming for me, hunting me down, and I’d like to be in my tent before it comes in earnest. I get down towards the Indian Creek Trail junction – I want to be well off the ridge, since I can hear thunder in the distance – and pass one site up because I want to make it as far as possible this evening, make it to the actual junction where there’s supposed to be something as well. While there is a place to camp there, everything looks already-wet and pretty puddly and generally sub-optimal. I don’t need tent flooding in my life. So I head back to the one about a tenth before it, but it looks even more puddly. DAMN MY PERFECTIONISM. So it’s back to the junction where I start to set up and the sky opens up on me.
It’s raining and is that hail goddamn it I’m throwing my tent together quickly but not quickly enough; my hands aren’t cooperating and everything’s getting soaked and by the time I’m done, I’m basically cackling hysterically. This day though. I throw myself, my stuff, inside my sopping-wet tent, to peals of thunder that rumble in my chest. Maybe I should’ve set up a little closer to some trees.
Of course everything calms down after a little bit. Of course it does. But it’s 7:30, and I don’t want to risk getting my clothes wet by putting them back on, heading back outside. I know it’s going to freeze overnight; I don’t want my clothes to be frozen in the morning. So here it is, nearly dark, end of a terribly-disappointing, 21-mile, 11.5-hour day – that’s not even two miles an hour. I’m supposed to be better than this.
So I’m awake in my bag and just… reflecting on today, reflecting on the hike, reflecting on me and my feelings and and and. A lot of people go hiking/camping/backpacking to be one with nature, to feel like they’re the only person in the world. As nice as that should be to me – I’m an introvert at heart – it feels more like a burden, a heartache. Maybe I would’ve appreciated this alone-ness more at the beginning of the trail, when there were so many people that I just wanted the occasional moment of escape. Or maybe I wouldn’t’ve. Maybe I’m just an introvert that needs people. A contradiction in terms.
The thought of the impending, unwanted zero in Stehekin is a physical weight on my chest, pushing me into my sleeping bag, making it hard to breathe. I cover my eyes nose mouth with my hands, take long, deep, rhythmic breaths, until I trick myself into relaxation and sleep.
Date: September 21 • Start: 2474.4 • End: 2495.7 • Day: 21.3
Notable Accomplishments: Dried stuff out • Long/Short day • Hail-lelujah at least I’m getting closer2
 Freakonomics, during any given episode, either makes me think/brings new things to my attention or makes me supremely annoyed. The Old Guard of economics keeps assuming that people are rational actors who always act in their own best interests, but as soon as we stop thinking about them that way, the randomness of the data taken by economists makes more sense. This sense-making usually happens in hindsight for economists, which makes the anthropologist in me go “duh.” I’m told this is improving, what with the study of externalities becoming more and more central to economics.
 So I got smart and started voice-recording my notes for each day around this point (with only 9 days left, womp womp), and listening to the voice recording for this day was… kind of hilarious, actually. I was really feeling my feelings about more than I knew – not just disappointment at having a rough day, but at finishing the trail. There was more going on here than was immediately apparent to my exhausted self.